UK Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) have released a research briefing on regulating product sustainability.
The briefing covers pressing topics for future policy-making as resource sustainability becomes progressively important. The report was developed through interviews with industry experts, including Ecosurety, and focuses on how policy mechanisms such as incentivising durability and repairability can lessen the impact of resource heavy consumption.
Key findings from the report states that more resource and energy efficient product design could greatly assist with the UK’s carbon and waste prevention goals, and potentially avoid 12 million tonnes of carbon emissions by 2035.
The briefing also recommends that increased data collections, targeted support for sustainable business models and enhanced enforcement will be important in mitigating the effects of steadily increasing global consumption.
Consumption continues to become more linear
Despite a global policy setting trend toward circular economics, consumption continues to become more linear as raw materials and carbon heavy manufacturing keep up with demand. It is therefore crucial that, alongside innovations in production, a reduction in material consumption is prioritised via “extending the useful life of products, increasing use of recycled materials, and recovering components and materials for reuse at end-of-life”.
If UK policy centres around the above, not only will there be substantial environmental gains, but it would signal government aims to deliver on their promise to match or exceed EU ecodesign standards in the 2018 Resources and Waste Strategy.
Powers to do so will soon be set legislation as the Environment Bill now passes through the House of Commons, containing schedules that allow for binding target setting in relation to product efficiency.
Forward thinking regulatory mechanisms
It is important that UK policy-making continues to steadily adopt a framework that looks at the entire value chain of products. We hope to see increased ecodesign measures and incentivisation for re-use and repair as existing resource regulation is reformed, for example in the upcoming waste electrical consultation, that goes beyond the limited ‘right to repair’ announced last year.
Forward thinking regulatory mechanisms suggested in the brief do work – the report states that existing EU Ecodesign and Energy Labelling Regulations prevented 306 million tonnes of carbon emissions in 2020 (equivalent to the annual emissions of Spain).
On the research briefing released by POST, Robbie Staniforth, head of innovation and policy commented "It is vital that parliamentarians understand the complex nature of product regulation. The new powers in the Environment Bill give the Government greater scope to make changes to improve the environmental impacts of product consumption."
"We are pleased to have helped to simplify a complex issue into this note. We hope it is used widely to understand the policy proposals of current and future Governments."
The Regulating Product Sustainability research briefing is available here.
As Policy advisor Louisa provides key support to our team, including preparing reports on environmental policy issues and maintaining awareness of new developments. As such she will often be found coordinating responses to policy consultations, advocating policy positions and providing internal guidance to current legislation.